Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The world of tiny trifoliates in your lawn

If you have a less than model-standard evergreen lawn, the chances are you've a few clovers lurking in there. But don't despair - there's more to those tiny trifoliates that interrupt that gramineous monoculture. They're a diverse group of legumes with intricate flowers and the larger species even attract bumble bees. Red and white clovers (Trifolium pratense and T. repens, respectively) have bright, bulbous blooms and will grow nearly half a foot tall in fertile unmown ground.
The tinier Trifolium dubium (lesser trefoil), and T. campestre (hop trefoil) have bright yellow flowers, with those of T. campestre being larger with a paler yellow and more pompom-like. T. dubium can be easily confused with Medicago lupulina (black medick – so-called because of its coiled seeds that turn charcoal-back when ripe) but a good distinguishing feature of black medick is the tiny point on the tip of each leaflet – there is no such point on the leaflets of T. dubium.
T. arvense (rabbitfoot clover) meanwhile, has a furry bunny-tail like flower. They'll all continue to grow if mown, but as with many species, including dandelions and daisies, they'll be considerably smaller than their unmown counterparts. We found Trifolium arvense, Medicago lupulina, T. campestre and T. dubium all within a 2m-sq area on a road verge in Reading last week – fantastic, unless one has to count all of those flower heads....

From left to right: rabbitfoot clover (Trifolium arvense), black medick (Medicago lupulina),
 hop trefoil (Trifolium campestre), lesser trefoil (Trifolium dubium)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you - finally an article on trefoils that isn't about how to get rid of them! Even the RHS only seems to have articles about getting rid of them. I've been sowing them in my lawn, love clover and its relations